HAFB’s Hilltop Times goes digital

by Becky GINOS


SALT LAKE CITY—Hill Air Force Base was established before the United States entered World War II and continues to be an integral part of Davis County. Along the way the base’s newspaper the Hilltop Times reported on everything that took place there, preserving a rich history from 1943 to today.

Recently, the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library announced it has added the Hilltop Times to its Utah Digital Newspapers. “It’s 90 percent of the entire run from the beginning,” said Tina Kirkham, Digital Projects Manager for the Marriott Library Digital Services Department. “We’ll be done up to 2006 by the end of the year. It’s a one-time project to get the historical paper online. It’s still produced in digital form right now at hilltoptimes.com.”

Kirkham said it was Aaron Clark, director, Hill Aerospace Museum who really spearheaded the effort to get the paper digitized. “He spent a number of years to get this up and running,” she said. “We work with vendors to do the actual digitization but he had to do the organization.”

In the last 20 years or so the library microfilmed it all, said Kirkham. “Photographs were made of each page and the film had to be developed. Microfilm is good for storage because it doesn’t deteriorate where paper will. But it made digitizing it much easier and faster.”

Kirkham said the process uses a special scanner designed to scan microfilm. “It can hold 1,500 newspaper pages and takes about three minutes,” she said. “That’s a big difference from hand scanning printed pages.”

A digital image is taken of the newspaper pages but it is still searchable. “It uses optical character recognition (OCR) software to look at the image and detect English words,” said Kirkham. “It will try to read them and then pushes that into a separate file as just text. It creates a giant searchable database. If you enter a name it will show up where that word appears.”

The project has taken about a year. “There was a lot of planning and transporting of reels,” she said. “We have a large number of newspapers here and sometimes we borrow from other organizations but in this case we happened to have it in the building.”

The library has 160 different Utah papers digitized. “It’s only a small percentage of newspapers that have published in Utah,” Kirkham said. “The first paper was published in 1851 and there have been more than 600 papers started over the years.”

To access the Hilltop Times or other digitized papers visit digitalnewspapers.org.


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